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Reflexive stasis, scale reversal and the myth of modern cinema

Nagib, L. (2014) Reflexive stasis, scale reversal and the myth of modern cinema. In: Lindner, C. and Donald, S. H. (eds.) Inert cities: globalization, mobility and suspension in visual culture. I.B. Tauris, London, pp. 187-201. ISBN 9781780769721

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This chapter looks at three films whose Portuguese urban settings offer a privileged ground for the re-evaluation of the classical-modern-postmodern categorisation with regard to cinema. They are The State of Things (Wim Wenders, 1982), Foreign Land (Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas, 1995) and Mysteries of Lisbon (Raúl Ruiz, 2010). In them, the city is the place where characters lose their bearings, names, identities, and where vicious circles, mirrors, replicas and mise-en-abyme bring the vertiginous movement that had characterised the modernist city of 1920s cinema to a halt. Curiously, too, it is the place where so-called postmodern aesthetics finally finds an ideal home in self-ironical tales that expose the film medium’s narrative shortcomings. Intermedial devices, whether Polaroid stills or a cardboard cut-out theatre, are then resorted to in order to turn a larger-than-life reality into framed, manageable narrative miniatures. The scaled-down real, however, turns out to be a disappointing simulacrum, a memory ersatz that unveils the illusory character of cosmopolitan teleology. In my approach, I start by examining the intertwined and transnational genesis of these films that resulted in three correlated visions of the end of history and of storytelling, typical of postmodern aesthetics. I move on to consider intermedia miniaturism as an attempt to stop time within movement, an equation that inevitably brings to mind the Deleuzian movement-time binary, which I revisit in an attempt to disentangle it from the classical-modern opposition. I conclude by proposing reflexive stasis and scale reversal as the common denominator across all modern projects, hence, perhaps, a more advantageous model than modernity to signify artistic and political values.

Item Type:Book or Report Section
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Arts and Communication Design > Film, Theatre & Television
ID Code:37792
Uncontrolled Keywords:cinema; modernity; post-modernity
Publisher:I.B. Tauris

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